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dat feeling ….

11 Mar

…. when you find that sweet spot in bed and then you have to pee

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…. when you accidentally address someone as “Michael” instead of “Mark” on an important job application cover letter

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…. when you’re surfing and a nappy hits you in the face

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…. when you wake up thinking it’s 6am but it’s actually only 3am and you have 3 more hours

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…. when there are so many geckos, ants, beetles and mosquitoes in your room you just let them have it

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…. when someone gets choc coated macadamias in their care box

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Everybody is doing amazing things!

1 Mar

Chatting with a friend the other night, she told me she often mentions me in conversations she has, referring to me as the friend who is “doing amazing things overseas”.

Earlier that evening, I had spend the early twilight hours in a 3x5m patch of dirt in the next street over from my apartment playing with a bunch of neighbourhood kids. One little girl, Kimberly, around 9 years old had attached herself to me as my games assistant.

We were playing a combination of overhead and tunnel ball with a lot of babies involved not knowing how to play and the subsequent cheating that followed and elastics (England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales! Inside, outside, puppy dogs tails!). While we were doing this, a rich looking lady turned up. I knew she was rich because she had fair skin by Filipino standards, a fake chanel purse in tow and turned up with her daughter holding a bunch of pirated DVDs freshly purchased.

Kimberly, my assistant, was sitting next to me chatting away when the lady said to me “oh you’ve made friends with her, the black one”, referring to the colour of Kimberley’s skin. Immediately, Kimberley stopped chatted, her shoulders slumped and her glittery eyes went down to her lap. “Hey Kimberley”, I said quietly, “Do you think I am beautiful?”. “Yes!!” She said wholeheartedly! Me: “Do you think I’m fun? Do you think I’m funny? Do you have a good time playing with me?” Yes she said to all these questions! “Well”, I said, “look at the colour of my skin. It’s even darker than yours! And if you think I’m beautiful and fun and funny and good to play games with, then that means you are too”.

I will never forget the smile that broke from cheek to cheek and made her eyes sparkle at that moment and she became my games assistant again.

Working on a development assignment is pretty pretty pretty good. I feel like I have done meaningful work and shared a lot of my professional knowledge and experience with my organization and made significant contributions to my community. But I haven’t done anything they wouldn’t have done themselves in their own way and on their own time. When I look back on this experience, I won’t remember the key performance indicators like how many people attended a training workshop I held, or how closely I followed the policy cycle to develop the comprehensive land use plan. I will remember moments like making Kimberley smile and know even just for that afternoon that there is more to beauty than the colour of your skin.

So on paper, it seems like doing a development assignment overseas is a pretty amazing thing. In a lot of ways, it is and I feel proud of myself for everything I have achieved here. But to be honest, I don’t know anybody who isn’t doing amazing things…

So many of my friends are doing it in their jobs – enabling the creativity of future generations of young people, giving people the tools to move through their journeys with kindness, showing people attention and care, speaking for people who can’t, capturing and sharing beauty with others, creating environments for people to thrive and so many more. Also, I feel like my friends are doing amazing things outside of work by moving consciously across the earth, sharing so much of what they have with others, including the simplicity of laughter and joy.
Lots of my anxiety around leaving this place and going home has to do with leaving this opportunity where no matter what I do, the fact that I am here doing this job means I am “doing an amazing thing”. But I was reminded of the importance of the small amazing things like in that experience with Kimberley. I had moments like that before I came and I will again, without the fanfare of an international development extravaganza overshadowing everything else. I will exchange inspiring Filipinos for inspiring people back home who can help me continue to do amazing things and with whom I will do amazing things together in as many moments as possible.

 

My pathetic little electric stove

25 Feb

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My pathetic little electric stove that my grandma bought me on my first weekend in the province from Legazpi City just gave up, only 55 days to the end. It kinda went on fire, spat out a few slivers of sneaky garlic and made a horrendous popping sound before i quickly unplugged it and left it to just look pathetic and cold.

I didn’t cry which was quite the miracle (“stop getting attached to inanimate objects!!!” said a certain someone right now). Obviously if I had cried it wouldn’t have been because I was emotionally attached but because I could have looked at it as another blow I didn’t need at this tumultuous time in my adventure. Like when my ukelele broke or when I missed the Gubat bus from Naga.

But while it couldn’t have been a worse time to have a stove you use everyday break when you were just about to make a curry laksa, it also couldn’t have come at a better time because last night I intentionally made a resolve to look at things in a different way.

As you know, I have been freaking out a lot lately about coming home. The usual stuff that I won’t bother getting into now. But in a nutshell, after a couple of weeks of crying more nights than I would like to admit about leaving here and going home anxieties, I decided to just enjoy everything I have here while I can.

It sounds totally obvious I know now that I say it…

So after my pathetic little electric stove gave up, I texted my counterpart sir Junie, the best man in the Philippines, to see if he knew of someone selling a second hand or just cheap stove that could see me through the next few weeks. He texted me not 5 minutes later saying he was downstairs and would take me to find either a new stove or someone to fix my stove. I jumped on the back of his motorbike, side saddle, and just watched everybody in the street wave or call out to him and he would occasionally yell out to someone something about my stove…

When the stores were closed and the man who some other man who some other man told us to go and find said it couldn’t be fixed, he told me he would text everybody he knows to see if I could borrow one so I don’t have to buy a new one with so little time left. He will do it you know. Because that is the sort of kindness I am surrounded by everyday.

Like when he drove me to find this local man who makes guitars when my ukelele broke and asked him to fix it. Or when the coconut donut man (yes coconut donut – the most amazing dessert ever) got yelled at by the other snack sellers at the terminal for selling us the donuts from the doorway of the bus, holding up the whole Philippine National Highway in the process, just cos I am his suki (regular customer).

Or when my landlady gave me a rose and some hersheys on valentines day. Or when a tricy driver kept driving around checking on Carrie and I just to make sure we didn’t change our minds about walking in the rain. Or all those times when somebody I have met once, and who often I don’t even remember meeting, sees me in the street or on public transport and asks me how I am or reminds me of something I said when I first met them.

I was crying yesterday (of course) about saying goodbye to people like this in a few weeks. But since my resolve, I have decided to save the tears for the actual goodbye and just enjoy them now while I can. It is an unfortunate symptom of our modern life that all too often people who don’t know you aren’t kind and so refreshing to live among people for whom kindness is first nature.

I am also going to get me a fresh young coconut, Philippines gatorade, for P10 while I still can, since crying as much as I have been is totally useless and is also incredibly dehydrating.

79 seems like so much less than 80!

31 Jan

Or so I was told yesterday, when I went to bed last night with 80 days to go before I got home and woke up this morning to just 79!.

I’ve been going through so many emotions lately I couldn’t possibly have captured one for long enough to blog about it. One minute, I’ll be waiting for my coconut milk to be made in the market with my lemongrass, ginger, tofu and veggies in my bag that cost me less than $3 and I’ll be like, how the hell am I gonna survive at home (with winter looming no less) and not a dessert mango, daily or otherwise, in sight.

Nek minnit, a 5 hour bus trips turns into 5 bus trips over 9 hours and I’m like “get me the hell out of this country”…. but not to home. But I do wanna go home, cos I wanna go to class and hang with my pals and kiss my cat, complain the whole way up the 1000 steps and catch a scheduled train. But I don’t wanna go home, because that means I need to do the full time job of finding a full time job when an election just got called and nobody knows what’s what.

See what I mean? It’s like trying to catch a snowflake. (side note: is that the phrase? I was never good at using those kinda phrases. Some might remember a certain “if wishes were fishes” argument…)

I had my last monitoring and evaluation meeting last week. I thought I would have to show them the work I had done this year, so to avoid this, I left my macbook at home (“oh crap sorry didn’t know you would want to see actual work!”). But actually it was more about how I can exit smoothly so my organization is happy and even a little about how I am going to take care of myself in the next few likely emotional and confusing months. It gave me some good stuff to think about.

True to the sector I work in, it was recommended that I have a “strategy” for transitioning back into Melbourne life and managing my reverse culture shock. I am having one of those moments right now where the thought of going home makes me feel a bit sick…. so I won’t think too much about that strategies actions at this stage.

But I think the overarching goal of the strategy (yup I’m pretty good at my line of work) is to spend the next few months enjoying everything I love about this place I call home now while at the same time allowing myself to look forward to all those things I have missed about that other home that seems so far away.

So lots of coconuts, mangoes, surf and walks down the street while also checking out the events calender at the Wheeler, unsuspending my yoga membership, getting the book club list from the girls and maybe even letting myself look at the produce list at New Harvest.

Here comes the rain again

10 Jan

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It’s super raining in beautiful Gubat right now. The third day of super rain since I’ve got back, although it’s been generally raining everyday.

At 4.30 there was a brownout, so I left the office to get some supplies for a couple of surprise birthday craft projects I am working on (hopefully neither of the recipients reads this post) and I finished stage 1 of crafternoon and it’s only 4.52pm.

I’ve sat down to do one of my favorite activities in the world: read. Up there in faves are yoga of course, surfing, floating in the sea, laughing loud and long with friends in cafes and restaurants, writing, picnics, cuddling with my love, kissing my cats head, cooking, eating, watching people cook for me, playing Sunday flip and trying to remember movies actors have starred in while watching them in a movie presently. There might be more, but that’s all I can think of right now.

I’m currently reading saltwater Buddha by jamail yogis, a book about zen and surfing, and the handy feature on the kindle is telling me I’m 54% in after reading for 3 hours. On Tuesday, I read (and bawled openly and loudly over from around 40%) the fault in our stars by john green in 4 hours.

conversely, I started reading the song of ice and fire series in August and only just on Monday did I finish book 4. George R. R Martin is my frenemy – what a story he tells but what hard work for someone who never reads this genre to read. Why say breakfast when you could say “break my fast”, or uncle when you can say nuncle (old timey language for mine uncle) and why say you got your period when you could say I am now a woman flowered. So… As u can tell, frenemy.

Oh I’ll read book 5, but I’ll try and read 4 books I’ve had on my to read list before I get swept up in it. Then I’ll rage over the current lack of book 6 and fear the death of dear George before he can finish penning book 7. What a gift to write such compelling fiction.

So I thought, just for my own fun, I’d share all the books I’ve read during my volunteer year that took me to a different place, which you sometimes need when times get tough. Hopefully you’ll find something you like!

Illustrado – miguel syjuco
Never let me go – kazuo Ishiguro
A thousand splendid suns – Khalid hosseini
The great gatsby – f. Scott Fitzgerald
The hunger games trilogy – Suzanne Collins
The eyre affair: a Thursday next novel – jasper fforde
Atlas shrugged – Ayn rand (another corker that took me several weeks to finish. Have you seen the size of that thing?)
Eating animals – Jonathan saffran foer
Pacific rims – rafe bartholemew
The fault in our stars – John green
Currently reading saltwater Buddha – jamail yogis

And yes of course, 4 song of ice as fire books and one more to go.

Looking at this pathetic list I realize how much the song of ice and fire books have bloody well consumed me. I swear, heaps of those books I read in like 2 days, just Martin writing in a different language and introducing 7 new characters every time he kills one off and rand explaining every minuscule detail of the rail business held me back!

On my current to read list before reading book 5…

Brave new world – aldous Huxley
The omnivore’s dilemma – Michael pollen
On the road – jack Kerouac

Gregor

8 Jan

A week into 2013 and this is only my first blog post? I start a lot of blog posts apologizing for the previous drought of blog posts, so I will start this one by saying happy new year!

It’s so weird to say certain things happened a year ago… like I haven’t seen my family, my Melbourne friends or my bf since last year. I haven’t seen Australia since last year and Melbourne since super last year! I haven’t been to a yoga class since last year. I haven’t eaten a pad thai since last year!

But on that last note, let me do away with the negatives and focus on the positives of the 2 weeks I just spent on festive vacay with other vols, expats, friends and wellwishers in the visayas, an island group in the middle of Philippines.

I got back just a couple of days ago and my trip home, on a usually 12 hour bus, took 25 hours, so was super happy to be back. I also had my usual manila provisions, like flat bread, parsley and spinach, to keep me happy for a few days.

I kinda needed that food happiness because on my 2 week holiday, I ate so much amazing food that you generally can’t get anywhere else in the philippines! Black bean burgers, yes! Vegetable paninis, yes! Canellini bean tacos, yes! Calamansi muffins, yes! Roti bread and dhal and Indian curries! Yes yes yes!

I could not go straight back into my soup life after all that joy (although admittedly, I do eat better than lots of the volunteers in other places due to creative provisioning and fantastical experimentation). When the volunteers get together, especially vegetarians and vegans from Melbourne, you can bet your bottom dollar conversation will soon and painstakingly turn to food. Haloumi…. Droooooooooool!!!!

So after the initial happiness of being home and not on a bus and eating good food that doesn’t cost Australian dollars and in my own portion sizes, I am missing my holiday family. On holiday with so many people, the biggest group ever assembled in the history of 9 months in the philippines, you could hang with this person for an hour, then join those people, then split up from the original people and go off by yourself before joining a larger group of people.

In gubat, to hang with people, I used to get on a jeep then minivan for a 4 hour round trip. Now, tania is my closest Melbournian and I will see her this weekend for an overnight to break up and 8 hour round trip. I have made some new peace corps friends in sorsogon, only about a halfa away from home here, which will be amazing and definitely stop me from becoming a recluse, with my best frenemy George R. R Martin as my only company.

You realize the amazing luxury you have back home of picking and choosing who to hang out with and when. You realize the stupidity in complaining about being too busy because you have so many catch ups after work and on the weekend. I have certainly realized how lucky I was to be part of a yoga community in Melbourne and could talk to yogis and teachers after class every single day.

Being alone is awesome. But it’s best after being with other people and being yourself in both of those settings. Too many happy hours, green tea bullshits from starbucks, midnight swims and subsequent wet underwear can be too much. But so too can time spent with my new friend Gregor the praying mantis, to whom I may have to give up my apartment in order to have a peaceful night of sleep. If he really is like Kafka’s Gregor though, I will have to befriend him, because after all he is a human spirit trapped in the oversized body of a bug for no known reason, a misunderstood soul.

See? Too much time alone has me thinking crazy.

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K Lo and I enjoying a Christmas game in our formal sleep wear

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beautiful Boracay

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My dream kitchen – Real Coffee Cafe, Boracay

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Even though I told these wild American vols I am Australian, not Kiwi, they insisted on doing a haka for me

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The stairs aka steep ass ladder up to my private room

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My fellow 25 hour bus commuters

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Gregor the praying mantis

What if the world really was ending tomorrow?

20 Dec

Amidst all the hype on my favourite stupid website 9gag about tomorrow being the end of the world, I can’t help but think ponder the thought of how would I feel if tomorrow were the end of the world and thus the end of my life.

I know it’s a stupid misunderstanding of an ancient Mayan way of distinguishing time, but I have a feeling I will be happy come Saturday and I still have time to do all the things in my life I wanna do and experience everything I have yet to experience.

Those same people misinterpreting the Mayan calendar on 9gag are also those who might say “YOLO” (you only live once)… I shudder at the thought that I might be giving a nod to that message and those kids who provide me with so many hours of entertainment on the internets, but internet sensations like this apocolaypse business remind me that you live as this being once and it’s short relative to the universe, so each present moment should be wondrous and joyful – and not necessarily in a grand way… just in the wonder and joy that you place upon each moment, because that’s all wonder and joy ever is.

I’ve done a lot of stupid things in my life but I am in a good place to day – everything is ok and it always is, so I have absolutely no regrets.

I also want to have share some specific things I am grateful for in my life. Just in case the world does end tomorrow, I want my last thoughts to be about all the blessings I have in my life.

I am grateful for my body which always supports me, through all the poundings I give it from surfing and yoga and going outside at dusk with no mozzie repellant on and spending too much time in the midday sun.

I am grateful for courage I can gathered from within myself to do big things in my life  like solo travel and further education and especially this experience, which I did at a time where the life I was living was ridiculously good.

I am grateful for my family who have supported me and from whom I draw my courage in every decision I have made in my life, big and small, and who have shared and been witnesses to so many of the experiences I have had in my life that have shaped me.

I am grateful for my old friends, who know me as the person I am now but who I was a year, and 2 and 5 and 10 years ago, and have watched me change and changed with me and inspired me to change, and for my new friends who encourage me to look at things in different ways and break old habits and also remind me of all the good things in myself and who show me all the good things I could enjoy in people I would have never met otherwise.

I am grateful that I always have a full belly and I know how to feed and nourish myself so that I can give more to those around me (even though sometimes I choose poorly – I’m not perfect!)

So I think tomorrow is actually the end of an old era and the start of a new one, so I want to set some intentions too.

I will practice practice practice at everything and strive to reach my greatest potential

I will give out everything I want to receive – in love and friendships and work and life and affection and gratitude.

I will keep learning in all the ways that are so easily available to me and always have fresh eyes to learn even from things I have practiced a million times over

I will spend more time on love – with my family and friends and myself

I will get better at emails (there has to be at least one tangible one in the list I think!)

It’s already tomorrow on Australia’s east coast and according to credible sources, life is going on. Phew. Like I said, no regrets, but it would have been nice to kiss my cat back home one last time!